Analysis

The week ahead: Rishi Sunak to resurface and manifesto launches in crucial seven days

The Prime Minister needs a good, if not great week of campaigning.

It has been a strange weekend, where in the aftermath of Rishi Sunak’s early exit from the D-day event, he has avoided all media.

The Prime Minister did no campaigning on Sunday, turned down all interviews, and cancelled those already in place.

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With not long to go, Mr Sunak needs to dramatically alter his party’s fortunes, with one poll on Sunday even predicting the Tory numbers in Westminster could fall under 150.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be hoping to hit back after a bad week.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be hoping to hit back after a bad week.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be hoping to hit back after a bad week.

Now entering party manifesto week, could this be the turning point for the Prime Minister, or more of the same? Here’s what to look out for.

Manifestos

We are at the part of the campaign where the contenders finally publish their manifestos, something that can both salvage or kill a campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn’s policy heavy manifesto in 2019 is a frequent reference for the current Labour party, who have since vowed to meet the public where they are.Labour will publish their manifesto on Thursday, which will include a cast-iron pledge not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT.

Rishi Sunak during a visit to Big Help Out project in Bishop Auckland, County Durham . Photo: Phil Nobel/PA WireRishi Sunak during a visit to Big Help Out project in Bishop Auckland, County Durham . Photo: Phil Nobel/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak during a visit to Big Help Out project in Bishop Auckland, County Durham . Photo: Phil Nobel/PA Wire

It is expected to include a pledge to recognise Palestine before the end of any peace process, and to make sure such a move does not get vetoed by a neighbouring country. Labour is also considering a promise to lower the retirement age for ambulance workers to boost recruitment and retention. It is also expected to focus heavily on security.

In an early blow to Sir Keir Starmer, Unite, Britain’s second-biggest trade union, has refused to endorse the manifesto after arguing it was not tough enough on employers.

There was also anger from the Labour left, who say the party leadership used a veto power over policies it did not approve of. These included the introduction of free school meals for all primary school children and the scrapping of the two-child benefit cap.

We also know the Liberal Democrat manifesto will be published on Monday, accompanied by, presumably, Sir Ed Davey doing something that looks funny on camera. The Greens is coming on Wednesday.

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However, while there is no set date for the Tory manifesto, it is expected to be published on Tuesday.

Given Labour’s is already set, expect Tory HQ to focus on Labour’s finances, and publish their own shortly after.

As for what’s in it, the Conservatives may look to abolish National Insurance, with the Prime Minister saying this was a long-term goal.

Release Rishi

The week should also see the resurgence of Mr Sunak, who has been in hiding since his apology for leaving the D-day event early.

Since then, there have been reports he was never going to attend at all, as well as widespread anger from his own colleagues, including ministers.

More than one MP told The Scotsman he would be gone outside an election, a rumour former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries encouraged, saying she’d heard he was to “fall on his sword”.

While this is nonsense, it is telling that the Work and Pensions secretary, Mel Stride, was forced to deny Mr Sunak could quit before the July 4 election. “He has recognized that he made a mistake and he deeply regrets that, he has apologized unequivocally,” Mr Stride told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips.

That this question is even being asked at all shows the febrile atmosphere in the Tory party, and echoes the situation of Gordon Brown, who did consider resigning after his “bigoted woman” moment in April 2010.

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In a further concern for Mr Sunak, even Lord Cameron is seemingly briefing against him, reportedly saying “there is only so much I can do” when asked why he didn’t stop him leaving early. Ensuring this anger doesn’t spill into next week is crucial for the Prime Minister.

One place we will see Mr Sunak is in an interview with Panorama, doing an extended sit-down. The same format will see John Swinney, Sir Keir, Nigel Farage, and Plaid’s Rhun ap Iorwerth interviewed in the same week.

Leader clashes

If you like leaders arguing, this week is going to be an absolute delight, with debates aplenty.

Tuesday sees the leaders of the main five Scottish parties face off on BBC One, while on Wednesday, Sky News have a leaders’ event from Grimsby, where Sir Keir and Mr Sunak will be interviewed in depth and then face questions from an audience.

If that’s not enough, ITV on Thursday has a a 7-way leaders debate. Then on Friday, Scotland face Germany in the opening match of the Euros, which should guarantee a lot of tweets from politicians, including those not into football.

The elephant in the room

Then there is Mr Farage, a man once again standing for parliament, and absolutely terrifying the Tories.Not all of them however, with both Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg spending the weekend suggesting he would be welcome in the Tory party, and perhaps even one day hold high office.

The Reform leader has a press conference on Monday, where he will be in buoyant mood with some polls showing his party within the margin of error of the same polling as the Tories.

Labour

Away from the manifesto, the party is seemingly striving to do as little as possible, and let the election take care of itself. One MP told The Scotsman the focus had to be on the disaster caused by the Tories, while another suggested they shouldn’t risk doing too much, and at this stage, it was just about not making mistakes. Thursday will give an idea of how smart this strategy is.

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